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Miss P mixing batter

Play with your food – cooking with children

The kitchen is said to be the heart of the home, so what an amazing place to make wonderful memories with your children! With all of the complications of the kitchen it may seem counterproductive to let children help out, but Sarah Muir (Ellibee Home Organisation) is here to explain why letting children explore food and help in the kitchen is vital for their development.

Miss P is nearly 4 and loves helping me in the kitchen – it’s become our thing! It’s our time together to chat, prepare dinner, have fun and learn. It turns out there are so many benefits of involving children in food preparation. Here are our top 4:

1. Trying Out New Textures

Miss P’s first forays into food fun was messy play! We’d go to messy play groups where there were trays of baked beans and cabbage with dinosaurs hidden underneath or construction toys and cereal! She’d get messy and explore the sight, touch and, most importantly, the taste of these foods. We’d also do messy play at home making pies for monsters with squidgy mashed potatoes or searching for the orange segment treasure in a tray of jelly – it all got put in her mouth! Even now as we prepare dinner she will try new foods and textures. A little while ago we made chicken and vegetable curry with green beans. Miss P’s job was to help with the vegetables. She played with the green beans popping out the bean seeds and sneaking some raw courgette as we prepped. We later compared the uncooked textures of the vegetables to the cooked ones and talked about what we preferred. Eating and liking food is linked to repeated exposure. It can take around 10 times of being introduced to a food before a child likes it. What better way of introducing and exploring foods for those first few times than making it fun and messy! Miss P actually didn’t like baked beans until she was sat in a big tub of them scooping them in with her hands, despite having them on her plate several times before.

2. Opportunities for learning

Cooking is fun for children (and can be for parents too) but there are also many learning opportunities. Here are five of our favourites:

  • Fine motor skills – cutting (with a blunt knife or kid-friendly scissors), spreading and pouring can all help develop fine motor skills ready for writing and drawing in the future.
  • Creative skills – Whether it’s coming up with tasty combinations, or making your meal into a work of art, cooking forces you to use your imagination. Miss P’s favourite thing at the moment is making pizza faces with different ingredients.
  • Numeracy skills – Miss P loves numbers so we use cooking as a way of practising her maths skills. She identifies numbers on the scales (number recognition) and counts out different ingredients as we use them.
  • Safety skills – Sharp knives, high heat and germs are the biggest safety factors in the kitchen. When cooking with Miss P I use these as learning opportunities to teach her what she can and cannot touch and why. Not only am I keeping her safe, but showing her the reasoning behind all of the rules means she’ll understand what is dangerous.
  • Food waste and recycling – Miss P loves being my ‘bin lady’ when we’re preparing food. It’s the job she can easily do with little instruction. As a result of this she knows what we put in compost, what goes in general waste and she even has a better idea than Mr Ellibee of what goes in the terracycle or flexible plastic bins!

Miss P rinsing blackberries in the sink

3. Eating more food

This is probably one of the best benefits of cooking with children – they eat more food! It is scientifically demonstrated that children are more likely to eat food that they prepare themselves. A 2014 study conducted by van der Horst, Ferrage and Rytz and published in Appetite showed that children were 76% more likely to eat salad when they had helped to prepare the meal than if the parents had prepared the meal themselves. This is great news for increasing nutritious eating in children and helping to reduce food waste. When a child takes part in preparing food they feel more control, have more ownership over it and feel a sense of achievement. They want to eat it and they like what they eat. We have definitely noticed this with Miss P. She’ll tuck in with vigour when it’s something she’s been involved with preparing and more often than not she loves the taste and has a good go at eating it! This is great news for reducing food waste.

Miss P eating vegetables

Delicious raw courgette!

4. Making informed decisions about food

Being part of the meal preparation, whether it’s choosing items in the supermarket, selecting what we want to prepare for dinner or deciding how much food goes on the plate helps the child to make their own decisions about food. The other night Miss P was helping me prepare chicken pasta bake
and she tried the sauce that we made and decided she would prefer plain pasta with her dinner. As she wasn’t having the vegetables that were in the sauce, I gave her the choice of a carrot, tomato and cucumber and asked her to choose which ones she wanted with her pasta. She ate all of her dinner that night because she had chosen it (with restricted options and guidance from me). Guiding young children to make their own choices gives them a sense of control. It has the short-term benefit of increasing the chances they will eat what is on their plate but also has long-term benefits that will set them up for making nutritious and waste-free choices in the future.

Miss P and I love cooking together. Our favourite things are making smoothies (a great way of using leftover fruit) and making homemade pizzas. Cooking makes room for many conversations about food and other everyday things and the fact its fun and reduces food waste is a big bonus! What will you cook with your little ones?

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired you, please tag us on social media with our hashtag #NOWorganise so we can see what you’ve been up to! 

Creamy salmon bake

Three easy ways to love your leftovers

When APDO decided that this year’s National Organising Week‘s theme was going to be “Love your Leftovers” I got really excited. You see, I’m not an amazing cook, but I love using cooking as a creative outlet in my day-to-day life. My step mother is an amazing cook, and she made sure that I knew the basics of cooking from quite a young age, which has allowed me to experiment with food. Not only is learning the basics a great gateway to more serious cooking, it’s also a key element in wasting less food. The following recipes are some of the easiest ways that I love my leftovers!

Home-Made Stock

I love making home-made stock because it’s the base for so many recipes! You can use it for risotto, to add some kick in a creamy pasta dish and use it to add depth in a chilli or sauce. *Note* When collecting scraps for your stock you can start a collection tub in your freezer. Whenever you’re done preparing your food, instead of putting the scraps in the compost put them in the collection tub. Once the tub is full you can schedule in some time to boil it down for the below recipe.

What you’ll need: 

  • Water
  • Leftover vegetable scraps or bones
    • For vegetable broth use vegetable scraps
    • For meat broths use leftover meat bones from roasts and add some onion, carrot and celery scraps if you have them on hand
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Any other spices that you love
  1.  Put your scraps in a pot and just put enough water in to barely cover them. Cover with a lid and bring the stock to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer.
  2. Once the stock is simmering add salt and pepper and any other spices you want to taste. I really like adding smoked paprika to my veggie broths while dried herbs are a great addition to chicken stock. Cover again and let simmer for 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. When your timer has gone off, taste the stock and make sure that it is flavourful. Add more spices if you wish.
  4. Turn off the heat and pass your stock through a sieve with a bowl under it to catch the liquid. Throw out your scraps and voila! What’s left in the bowl is your home-made broth. Once this has cooled you can separate the liquid into several containers and freeze what you’re not going to use right away.


Sauces are definitely my favourite way to integrate random leftover veggies and meats that are in the fridge because they’re so versatile. Sauces not only go with the obvious choice of pasta, but can be baked, smothered and dotted on just about every dish imaginable. Whether it’s tomato, creamy or sweet, sauces can transform a dish and clear out your fridge so it’s ready for another shop.

  • Creamy Sauces
    1. Start by adding some oil to a pan on medium heat, once the oil is hot fry some chopped onion and garlic (optional) for two to three minutes and then add your leftover veg and meat
    2. When your veg is nice and soft and the meat is hot, add thick Greek yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche (my favourite) to your pan and turn the heat down to low
    3. Add to pasta, bake with chicken or fish
  • Roux Sauces
    1. Add equal amounts of butter and flour (usually about 1/4 cup) to a pan and mix them together until it forms a paste-like texture
    2. Slowly add warm milk or broth until the sauce has the consistency that you want
    3. Add salt, pepper and desired spices to taste and take off of the heat. Heat up your leftovers separately and add to the sauce
    4. Add to pasta, bake with chicken or fish, use as filling for a pie
  • Tomato Sauces – These are probably the most common sauce I make with leftovers because I almost always have several jars of tomato sauce in my cupboard.
    1. heat some oil in a pan, throw in some garlic and onions (optional) for two to three minutes
    2. Add your leftovers and let them fry until the vegetables are soft and/or the meat is warm
    3. Add the jar of tomato sauce, and any desired spices and let simmer for 5 minutes
    4. Add to pasta, bake with meat or use for Shashouka

Pasta Dish


Soups are another easy way to use up leftovers and a lovely addition to a cold, rainy day. They can take time to make but usually it’s easy to stretch soup into large batches and can be frozen for later consumption.

  • Broth based soup
    1. Heat some oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and add chopped onion and garlic, stirring often for about three minutes
    2. Add leftovers and spices to the mix and let fry stirring often for another three to four minutes
    3. Add desired amount of broth (it should cover the mix plus a few inches) to the mix and bring to a boil
    4. Turn the heating down to low, cover and let simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring every few minutes
    5. Serve with fresh bread and butter
  • Blended soup
    1. Boil potatoes and/or root vegetables, once you can get a fork through them, drain and put to the side
    2. Heat some oil in a large saucepan on medium heat and add chopped onion and garlic, stirring often for about three minutes
    3. Add the leftovers (vegetables only, meat will be added at the end), and desired spices, stir to coat everything in the spices and let fry until soft, about five minutes
    4. Take off of the heat and let cool
    5. Put all of the ingredients in the blender with potatoes and/or root vegetables, add some of your preferred broth and blend until smooth and creamy
    6. Add any leftover meat
    7. Reheat in saucepan and serve with fresh bread and butter
Creamy Pumpkin Soup

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

These recipes are just scratching the surface of what you can do with your leftovers. Here is a list of other recipes that are versatile to look up if you want some more inspiration on what to cook:

  • Risotto
  • Omelette/Quiche/Frittata
  • Fritters
  • Potato pancakes
  • Pizza
  • Stir-Fry
  • Tacos
  • Fried rice


I hope that you’ve been inspired to get in the kitchen and start experimenting with what you’ve got. If you have any other ideas for leftovers, leave us a comment below! And now, pour yourself a lovely glass of wine, throw on your favourite tunes and get cooking!

By Krista Thompson (Zen Den Oxford)

Krista Thompson

It’s National Organising Week 2019 and APDO’s 15th birthday celebration! We would love for you to join in the fun by following us on our social media channels. If we’ve inspired you to #loveyourleftovers please tag us with our hashtag #NOWorganise so we can see what you’ve been cooking up!